Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Malcolm S. Hill


The ecological and evolutionary relationship between sponges and their symbiotic microflora remains poorly understood, which limits our ability to understand broad scale patterns in benthic-pelagic coupling on coral reefs. Previous research classified sponges into two different categories of sponge microbial associations: High Microbial Abundance (HMA) and Low Microbial Abundance (LMA) sponges. Choanocyte chamber morphology and density was characterized in representatives of HMA and LMA sponges using scanning electron microscopy from freeze-fractured tissue. Denaturing Gradient Gel Elextrophoresis was used to examine taxonomic differences among the bacterial communities present in a variety of tropical sponges. The results supported the hypothesis that choanocyte chamber density is greater in LMA spongs than in HMA sponges. Distinct microbial differences were observed between HMA and LMA sponge species. Our results provided insights into the role that symbionts play in shaping the trophic ecology of these sponges.

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